Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel, and Kairi make up four of the new Princesses of Heart. Come theorise who the last three Princesses will be!


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IGN Interview w/ Tatsuya Kando - January 22 2009

IGN: First of all, congratulations on the success of The World Ends With You both in Japan and in the states here. The game surpassed our expectations sales-wise, and went on to become IGN DS's Game of the Year.

Kando: Thank you very much. We're very happy about the warm reception that the game has received in North America, despite the fact that it was set in a location based on Shibuya, Japan.

IGN: How has the situation with this license changed since the game's initial pitch? Was it originally designed as a one-time game, or was there always a possibility for sequels? Now that the game has sold surprisingly well, may we see another game in the series?

Kando: The game's concept has not seen any drastic changes since its inception, but it was the first time our team decided to develop for the Nintendo DS hardware, so figuring out how to bring out the best in this hardware was a constant process of trial and error. Our objective was first to create a complete product, so we never really had a sequel in mind during development. 

IGN: So much of what made The World Ends With You an amazing game was its defiance of regular "RPG Rules." It didn't deal with swords or spells. It was a funky, fresh take on RPG's. Where did that motivation come from on Square and Jupiter's side of things?

Kando: Our motivation came from a desire to create a game world that was completely different from previous works like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Since the DS is a portable device, the development team was smaller in scale, and the staff was excited to go all out with their creativity. We were in high spirits and enjoyed the development process every step of the way. We looked at the project from many angles, always basing our ideas on the premise of portraying traditional RPG elements in a modern light. That is how we came up with unique systems like equipping badges to activate psychic moves or enabling players to shop for the latest in trendy Shibuya clothing.

IGN: Do you feel that RPGs are reaching a saturation point within our industry? Perhaps that The World Ends With You isn't just "another" way to do games in the genre, but a vital way to keep things fresh?

Kando: I believe that RPGs will continue to exist in various forms as long as individuals desire to experience something completely different from their daily lives. Providing a fresh experience is extremely important, and I think that to do so is part of the developer's ultimate goal. Looking back at the history of RPGs, I can think of so many titles with varying situations and styles of gameplay, yet do not feel that we are anywhere near exhausting our ideas for RPGs. I think that creators can continue to make new games that work, as long as they sit down to consider the following; their objective, whether the game can provide a fresh and surprising experience for users, and if they have created a story that players will enjoy.

IGN: If you could, explain what goes into the development of a character like Neku. At the beginning, he's very difficult to relate with due to his closed off nature, but by the end you find he's a very complex individual. Was it challenging to create a character that not only acts differently than players might want, but also has so much progression thought the story?

Kando: Neku is a character that prefers solidarity and isolates himself from the get-go, but feels a twinge of loneliness somewhere in his heart, and maybe was always longing for some kind of interaction. This story is one that depicts the growth of Neku, so we definitely focused on how to portray that development. How would Neku feel, what kinds of thoughts lie behind his actions, how will he interact with the other characters, how will he be affected by them and what do those that come in contact with him feel towards him as the game progresses? These were some of the things that we considered to create a believable story based on the thought processes of the characters involved. We consciously incorporated aspects and daily concerns that we felt players would have experienced in their personal lives. Perhaps when Neku's actions align with personal experiences, players would feel that they have become part of the game, in turn developing an understanding and tolerance for Neku's actions. This could reduce the kind of stress associated with controlling a character that doesn't act exactly in the way that players want.

IGN: The World Ends With You uses some amazing aspects of the DS hardware, including the game clock, the wireless roaming ability, and some really clever game mechanics. What do you wish you would have had more time to add?

Kando: I think this was a result of our efforts to do everything we could with the DS hardware. We're very happy to hear that you liked it. Of course, there were several elements we had to scratch, many of which were cut due to time constraints. Since we might be able to showcase them in a different form in the future, please spare us from explaining the details for now.

IGN: Was online ever and aspect you wanted to touch on? It would certainly add a very different feel to the experience altogether.

Kando: We did consider online play at the start of development, but this was one of those elements mentioned above that we cut due to time constraints. We wanted to avoid forcing it into the system and ending up with dissatisfying results, so we had no choice but to take that element out.

IGN: Music was obviously a big part of both the style of the game, and also Neku's character, and this concept of "noise" in the world is again very audio-centric. Why focus so much on the audio of a game like this?

Kando: Actually, at the start of the project, the top screen was going to be used for a sort of rhythm game (involving pushing buttons at the correct timing), but we adjusted our plans during development and that aspect was phased out. The concept of "noise" is a vestige of that phase. However, music remained as a key element in the story, and we reflected that in various aspects of the game. 

IGN: Many memorable RPGs in history have incredible musical scores as well. Do you feel that in games like role-playing titles, that having strong audio is even more vital than in other genres? Was the music in The World Ends With You a primary focus from the beginning of the game's conception?

Kando: Music is an extremely important element in portraying an RPG world. It is probably a cinematic effect that we couldn't do without. Our initial request to the composer was for music of various genres that one might hear when walking through the streets of Shibuya. There would be no synergy unless the game world and music are in sync.

IGN: Many fans of the game have now put in plenty of time with the game, and we've of course said our piece on it with our awards. Is it time to start thinking about a sequel? Can fans expect one, or is that something that's still being worked out internally?

Kando: We're very thankful that this title has been received so well, and as we see that there is demand from both Japanese and American fans, we would definitely like to consider the possibility of a sequel. Since it is not possible to get right into development at this moment, please give us a little more time.

IGN: The dual-screen presentation in The World Ends With You is obviously a huge part of the game, along with controlling two characters at once. Can a game like this make a jump to a system like Wii? Do you find the same synergy between IR control and traditional buttons as you do with a stylus and two screens?

Kando: Since The World Ends With You was specifically created for the DS, it would probably take on a very different form if it entered the console scene. Even though the Wii and DS seem similar, the stylus and Wii-remote are completely different, so naturally some alterations would become necessary to adjust the game for the Wii. Of course, the dual-screen element would have to be interpreted differently as well, but the most important thing would be to retain the essence of what makes The World Ends With You YOU what it is. The exhilarating high-speed action is a vital part of the game, so we would probably be careful to preserve that aspect when adjusting it for a new console.

IGN: On a different note, what is your view on the Wii in general? So many aspects of the system (integrating the weather channel and time-based aspects to games, the message board, Wii Connect 24) are being underused in our opinion. If there's one team that's ambitious enough to dig in with functionality, it'd be The World Ends With You team.

Kando: Thank you very much. The Wii is an extremely appealing hardware, so if our team did create a game for it, much like with The World Ends With You, we would make it our mission to examine how we could create a game that utilizes all aspects of the hardware.

IGN: Obviously you can't share everything with us, but what could the future hold for The World Ends With You? Obviously we'd love a sequel, but the soundtrack, pre-release comic… there's a lot to work with here. Perhaps an anime or manga series?

Kando: Personally, I think we've created a game that has a lot of potential to expand, so if given the opportunity it would be wonderful to take on the challenge. It would be such a waste if this was the end for The World Ends With You!

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